Friday, October 12, 2018

Paladins set to host fourth-ranked Terriers

Furman quarterback Harris Roberts rushed for 82 yards and threw for 133 in
the Paladins' 44-38 win over Western Carolina. Photo courtesy of Furman
The "second half" of what's been a disjointed 2018 football season for Furman begins Saturday when the Paladins host Wofford at 1:05 p.m. Even though we're in the middle of October, the schedule changes have made it difficult for Furman to gauge exactly what kind of team it has.

It's got to be hard for fans and those involved with the program to not think what could've been had the Paladins' scheduled home game against Colgate on Sept. 15 not been cancelled by the threat of Hurricane Florence. Senior captain Harris Roberts was healthy enough to likely start that game at quarterback and would've gained his first taste of significant playing time. Instead, that came the following week at ETSU.

While Roberts provided a spark that night, it was extinguished by the fourth quarter as the Paladins saw a 27-6 lead disappear in a 29-27 loss. Given the way Furman easily handled Colgate on the road last season, it's not really looking too much through purple-tinted glasses to see how this team could be 3-2 overall and 2-0 in the Southern Conference.

Reality is that the Paladins are 1-3 and 1-1 in the league and there's no time for thinking about couldas and wouldas. Not with the No. 4-ranked Terriers (4-1, 3-0) coming to town.

The week before last Saturday's bye, Furman piled up 577 yards of total offense in a 44-38 win over Western Carolina. Just over five minutes into the second quarter that day, the Paladins eclipsed their previous season-high total in points.

"It's been a little more fun the last couple of weeks because offensively we finally feel like we can go forward. We've kind of figured out who we can be," Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. "And we're not far from playing pretty good on defense at times. We've just kind of had that four, five or six plays in a game that's really hurt us."

While Western Carolina stud quarterback Tyrie Adams made some incredible throws to rack up 424 yards and five touchdowns passing at Furman, he was limited to 48 yards rushing on 19 carries. Adams entered that day leading the Southern Conference in rushing with an average of 99 yards per game. WCU running back Connell Young, who entered that day second in the league in rushing at 97 yards per game, was limited to 52 yards on 14 carries.

Furman will likely need an even stronger effort against the run Saturday to try to stop a Terriers team that's tied for the FCS lead in rushing at 388.8 yards per game. Of the 10 different Wofford players that have at least seven rushing attempts, each one is averaging at least 5.6 yards per carry. As a team, the Terriers average an eye-popping 7.3 yards per carry.

Wofford's offensive numbers under new head coach Josh Conklin have sort of overshadowed a defensive unit that ranks sixth in the FCS, allowing only 254 yards per game. The Terriers rank ninth in the country in scoring defense, allowing 15.2 points per game.

"They're just pretty solid everywhere," Hendrix said. "Their (defensive) philosophy has always kind of been to keep the ball in front and don't give up big plays. They try to force people to go 10 or 12 plays (on a drive). It's kind of hard to do that without something happening, like a penalty or turnover."

Furman will have to take advantage of its scoring chances Saturday. That's something that didn't happen in a pair of losses at Wofford last season.

"In those two games, we had four possessions where we had the ball inside the five and scored three points," Hendrix said. "We had chances to take control. ... Then in the second half of the playoff game, we just self-destructed and they just wore us down.
"We've practiced good and I think we have a little confidence. I'll be surprised if we don't go get after them."

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